Status of Trump's election interference case in Georgia, trial date unknown

Former US President Donald Trump, center left, and Todd Blanche, attorney for former US President Donald Trump, center right, at Manhattan criminal court in New York, US, on Friday, May 10, 2024. Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business re …

Even before this week, it seemed unlikely that the Georgia election interference case would go to trial in August 2024, which was the original goal of the Fulton County District Attorney's office.

Former President Donald Trump and 18 allies were indicted in August of 2023 after a 2-½ year investigation by the Fulton County District Attorney's Office, led by Fani Willis, of trying to change the results of the 2020 presidential election in  the state of Georgia. 

The trouble began with a motion filed in early January of this year by former White House staff member Michael Roman. The motion sought to have DA Willis disqualified from prosecuting the case against Trump and his co-defendants due to an "improper" relationship with then-Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade. The motion also claimed that Willis financially benefited from the investigation and the relationship.

On March 15, Judge Scott McAfee ruled that Trump and his co-defendants "failed to meet their burden" of proving that the romantic relationship between Willis and Wade was a "conflict of interest" or that Willis benefited from it. However, McAfee noted a "significant appearance of impropriety" and ruled that either Willis or Wade would need to step aside for the case to continue in Fulton County. A few hours later, Wade tendered his resignation. 

On March 18, Trump and several of his co-defendants requested permission from McAfee to appeal his decision, and on March 20, McAfee granted their request.

On March 23, in an interview with CNN, Willis insisted that the prosecution of Trump and his supporters had not been delayed by the proceedings related to her romantic relationship with Wade, though she did not mention a possible trial date.

Timeline: Fulton County DA Fani Willis, Nathan Wade controversy

On March 25, Judge McAfee vowed to keep the election interference case moving forward and scheduled a hearing for March 28 to hear arguments on three pretrial motions.

On March 27, Willis sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan stating that her office had complied with his requests for information and that "nothing that you do will derail the efforts of my staff and I to bring the election interference prosecution to trial."

On March 28, Judge McAfee heard arguments on three pretrial motions related to the election interference case. Sadow argued that Trump's statements regarding the election were protected speech under the First Amendment.

On March 29, attorneys for Trump and his co-defendants filed an application for interlocutory appeal, arguing that Wade's departure did not resolve the appearance of impropriety and had "cast a pall over these entire proceedings." They called McAfee's decision an "erroneous failure" and a "structural error." Attorneys also argued that Willis should have been disqualified for remarks she made in her Jan. 14 speech at a historic Black church in Atlanta. McAfee deemed the speech "legally improper" but did not penalize her.

On April 4, Judge McAfee denied Trump's motion to dismiss the Georgia case on First Amendment grounds.

On April 8, Willis asked the appellate court to block the appeal and defended McAfee's ruling. She also defended her speech at the church, saying she did not use anyone's name.

On May 8, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed to hear the appeal on May 8, giving Trump and his 14 co-defendants 10 days to file a notice of appeal, which will transfer the case from Fulton County Superior Court to the Court of Appeals. The defense will then have 20 days to file briefs with the court and the state will have another 20 days to respond. 

The Court of Appeals will not hear new evidence but will review the previously presented evidence to determine whether McAfee made the correct decision in allowing Willis to remain on the case. Subsequently, the losing party will have the option to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, further delaying the election interference case from going to trial. 

Since the Court of Appeals has agreed to review McAfee's ruling on Willis, Trump and his co-defendants may challenge other rulings made by McAfee.

According to a docket search for the Georgia Court of Appeals, DONALD JOHN TRUMP ET AL. V. THE STATE (Case number A24I0160) will be heard during the court's August 2024 term. The term ends on November 18, 2024. All cases docketed to be heard during the August 2024 term must be decided by March 14, 2025.

On May 10, a Notice of Appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals was filed on behalf of all defendants in the Georgia election interference case by former Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer. 

On May 10, Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey asked the DOJ to hand over "activity and/or communications between Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, or Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis related to the investigation or prosecution" of the former president.

Other investigations into Willis

In the meantime, the Georgia Senate Committee on Investigations continues to hold meetings to discuss Willis' conduct and potential misuse of federal funds during her investigation into Trump. The investigation aims to determine whether laws need to be changed and to restore trust in the criminal justice system. The inquiry could also influence how future funds are allocated to the district attorney's office.

Willis has labeled the investigation "unlawful" and stated she will not testify before the committee.

Additionally, the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary told Willis in March that she needed to comply with their requests for information for their investigation into possible misuse of federal funds or she could possible be held in contempt of Congress. The status of that investigation is unclear at this time. 

Status of Trump's Other Cases

Trump is currently on trial in New York.

On May 7, a federal judge indefinitely delayed Trump's Florida trial on charges that he mishandled classified documents and obstructed government efforts to retrieve them.

The federal case alleging Trump plotted to overturn the 2020 presidential election is also on hold, pending a Supreme Court ruling on Trump's claim of presidential immunity.